Caregiver Burnout: How to Prevent it from a Birmingham Therapist.

If you’ve worked with me before you know that I love to point out patterns I am seeing not only in my individual client’s lives, but also in my conversations in general. When reflecting on my recent trends, a conversation that is on the rise is burnout around caregiving. Whether this be caring for someone who is physically recovering from a surgery, a family member with a health issue, or a child that needs extra attention, caregiving is a hard, and often underappreciated, job. Burnout in general is a very common topic, but something that tends to get overlooked is the complexity and hardships of long-term caretaking and the effects this has on overall mental health.

woman pushing man in wheelchair in garden/ therapy for caregiver burnout/ 35223

What is Caregiving?

Caregiving is a broad term used to describe anyone who takes on the role of looking after another individual. While this can be a paid position at a job, caretakers are often parents, legal guardians, other family members, and even friends that are not necessarily compensated for their efforts. This can cause people to feel undervalued and underappreciated in their efforts. In addition, caretaking can be physically, emotionally, and psychologically tiring. Some common tasks that caretakers may have are assisting with daily tasks, managing schedules, driving to various appointments, and assisting with medical interventions. It is also important to note that the caretakers themselves have their own lives to manage during all of this! The combination of these heavy feelings and all the tasks that caretakers juggle can create elevated levels of stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, and compassion fatigue.

a caregiver holding hands with patient/therapy for caregiver burnout/ Birmingham 35223

Caregiver Burnout and Compassion Fatigue

While burnout and compassion fatigue have similar effects on a person, their causes are different. Burnout can stem from being overworked, dealing with frustrating situations that are out of your control, and putting more focus on work compared to personal factors. When related to caregivers, burnout tends to be higher in individuals who take on a helping role. Compassion fatigue is a direct cause of helping others and can come from the culmination of stressful and traumatic experiences had either at work, or in this case, while taking care of someone. Burnout and compassion fatigue cause heightened levels of exhaustion, changes in mood, sleep disturbances, and detachment from others. These effects can also span into other people’s lives, including the individual being cared for and the other relationships the caregiver has.

Raising Awareness Around Caregiver Burnout

While conversations around burnout and compassion fatigue are on the rise, something that is often forgotten about is relating it to caretakers. I think there is one main reason why this is: the individual being taken care of has needs that often have to be put first, regardless of what the caregiver is thinking or feeling. There are higher needs that need to be met and it is easier to put our own emotions aside to help someone else. While a few instances of this are not necessarily harmful, this continuous pattern can have heavy effects on a person. The bright side is that burnout and compassion fatigue do not have to be permanent. Below are some common strategies to help caregivers start to put focus back on their life.

a caregiver taking time for self care/ therapy for caregivers/ Birmingham/35223

Scheduling Self-Care

Self-care can take on many forms and looks different for everyone. This can look like reading a book, taking a walk, or spending quality time with others. I also like to talk about physical care here as well, including getting quality sleep, eating regularly, and moving our bodies.

Practicing relaxation techniques and mindfulness for Caregiver Burnout:

Two of my favorite activities to teach clients are box breathing and grounding. Box breathing consists of breathing in for 4 counts, holding your breath for 4 counts, exhaling for 4 counts, and holding for 4 counts. Grounding is an activity where you name physical things around you using your senses, 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. There are also many other forms of relaxation and mindfulness that can be used here!

a caregiver taking time to enjoy other relationship/ therapy for caregivers/ 35223

Focus on personal relationships:

It is easy to lose focus on other relationships when in a caregiving role. Take a moment to think about who you might not have had quality time with recently and make a point to either see or communicate with those people. This is a great way to not only talk about the things we are feeling, but also refocus our energy onto something different.

Therapy for Caregivers

Therapy in Birmingham is a great way to start feeling better. It is hard to recognize when we might need extra support, and it is even harder to take that step to reach out for help. Therapy is not only a great opportunity to talk about your experience with caregiving, but also a place to start piecing together what you want your life to look like and ways you can get there.

a woman at peace on beach/ Theraopy for caregiver burnout/ Birmingham Al/ 35223

Therapy for Caregiver Burnout in Birmingham, Alabama

Empower Counseling and Coaching in Birmingham, AL is here to help you on your journey of caretaking and mental health. Our goal is to join you wherever you are in you are in this process and create a safe, comfortable space for you to learn more about yourself and start achieving your goals. We offer services to teens, college students (Auburn, Alabama, Samford, UAB), young adults, adults, and professionals in the state of Alabama through online counseling and in person at our Mountain Brook office. Kathryn, Marti, Savannah, and Lucia offer counseling services for anxiety, depression, phase of life issues, perfectionism, eating disorders, bipolar, trauma, PTSD, and women’s issues. Coming soon is trauma treatment using EMDR counseling with Marti and Savannah.

Marti is here for you during this time of caregiving and mental health. If you are ready to start the process of feeling better and living a more fulfilled life, you can follow these steps:

  1. Contact Marti here to schedule an initial appointment or free 10-minute phone consultation
  2. Get to know Marti and the counseling process
  3. Begin your journey towards achieving your goals and living a more purpose-driven life

About the Author

Hi, my name is Marti Hardin, a therapist based in Birmingham, Alabama that is here to support those navigating their personal experience with caregiving. I am passionate about helping individuals learn how to best take care of themselves so they can in turn put their best foot forward when caring for others.

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